Posts Tagged 'Advent'

Advent Conspiracy: Give More

Advent Conspiracy: Give More Sermon Audio Here

Matthew 1:18-25

I love Christmas, but increasingly I don’t love trying to explain it to people who confused the real thing with “ChrisMyth”. You know “ChrisMyth” – where the magical Coca-Cola corporate seasonal mascot observes all your marketing data – ahem “sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake” – and either brings you toys or coal depending on how much you’re willing to spend – cough “whether you’ve been good, so be good for goodness’ sake”

Real Christmas Requires Real Gifts:


Realize Life Intrudes
~ Matt. 1:18-19

  • It begins with a couple who are betrothed. Betrothal is a little more serious than engagement. This couple’s name is Mary and Joseph and they had not slept together yet. This is pre-wedding. And Joseph finds out that Mary is pregnant.
  • Now, finding out that your soon to be wife is pregnant without your help would be grounds for very severe punishment in that time. Joseph could really ruin her life. What Joseph does decide to do is, divorce her quietly and not make a scene.
  • Now if you found out your fiancé was pregnant with another man’s baby, what would you say? Joseph says to himself, ok, I’m not going to get crazy, I’m not going to shame her. I’m just going to divorce her very quietly.
  • So the first part of God’s story to save humanity starts in the thought to divorce. Sounds like real life to me.

Remember, God Interrupts ~ Matt. 1:20-25

  • 20/23 Angel speaks to Joseph in a dream: Don’t worry; God has a plan
  • Heb. 1:1-2 – God speaks in many ways; today, through His Son
  • In the past God spoke in many ways, but now he has finally spoken with Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of Gods revelation. So, we have this reality of God with us, but in the form of a baby. This should draw some serious reflection out of us. Cheryl Lawrie reflected this way:

we are tempted to think
that this is out of character for you
a momentary fragility
showing your tender side
that once the Christmas carols are finished
and the decorations are put away,
you’ll get back to power and might.
but in your completeness –
this one chance we get to see flesh and bone
put onto the theory –
this is you:
fragile,
impossibly vulnerable
and at the mercy of human response.

  • Fascinating really. God puts himself at the mercy of a young girl,
    and a new husband. God enters life as a human. God with us.
  • That is how the story starts; no reindeer, no snowmen, no thunder, no pillars of fire, just a thought of divorce, a dream, and a baby, who is God in the flesh, come to be with us, Immanuel.
  • And so yes it is a simple story, but it is a story full of wonder.

We get to ask the question: what would it look like if God came to earth as a man?
And the answer we get is Jesus.
The wonder of the incarnation (God coming to earth in flesh) communicates so much. But at its core it is answering a very simple and deep question, which is:
God where are you?
And His answer is: Here with you. In this life. I’m not
some far off being, I am here among you.

I know what it’s like to be you. In your humanity, in your joy, in your suffering.
I know what it’s like to live this life. And I want to be with you. In this Life.
It’s a question we all longed to have answered. God are you with me?
And God answers very deeply, yes I am with you.
God longs for life to be lived with him, not necessarily, under him,
or for him, or above him, but with. In relationship with.
It can be very simple and very powerful when you are fully
present to someone, it fulfills a deep desire of our heart.

I remember a time when I was 16 years old. Mom had passed away, and it was just Dad and I in the house with a single bathroom. Dad had been sporting a Regular Army haircut for as long as I’d known him, but after my Mom died, he decided he’d let it grow out a bit. One morning we were both running a bit behind schedule, and we ended up standing side by side coming our hair. We looked at each other and just cracked up: it was so ODD. At that moment, we were just a couple of guys who were a bit frustrated that our hair wouldn’t quite do what we wanted. A strange moment to be “fully present”, but I wouldn’t trade that memory for the world.

When you’re content to just be with another person, entering into their world, being with them it touches something deep in our heart. It satisfies a deep longing.

And so when it comes to the actual story of Christmas one of the best ways to celebrate is to simply give the gift of your presence. Be with someone.
This year we are trying to spend less on presents and give more of our selves.

It’s the story of What God did, he came to be with us, and so we celebrate, by giving relational gifts.

Practice Give More

Specifically, during this season of Advent, we thought it would be a great way to remember “God with us” by trying to be more intentionally present — First to ourselves and then to other people.

Technology is making it easier and easier to be present but not be with. We’re halfway present, being present with our body but not with our whole relational selves.

It’s not unusual to be in a crowd full of people and for everyone to be distracted, in their own world, on their phone. An artist named Antoine Geiger has an installation called “Sur-Fake” that captured this really well. It’s a series of photographs which shows peoples faces being stretched and blurred into the screens of the devices they hold.

He says, basically this technology is pulling us out of the moment, out of relationship and even away from our own thoughts, instead of being quiet with ourselves and thinking and working something out in thought and prayer, we just distract ourselves with a phone.

So not to get all anti phone, but we think it would be a great way to celebrate God with us by trying to be more with ourselves and others by doing a phone fast this week. Temporarily, turn off your social media apps. Have a spot where you put your phone as soon as you walk into the house. Do whatever you have to do to eliminate the distraction.

Each time you reach for your phone, instead spend a moment in reflection and prayer.

Or, ask your friends or spouse or kids a question, or play, cook, talk, run, just don’t be alone with your phone.

Try and be — with.

Use the time to brainstorm the relational gifts you can give this Christmas as you spend less and give more.

Maybe for you it’s not the phone, maybe it’s the TV, or work that doesn’t need to be done right this moment, but I invite you to stop, and celebrate God with us, by being with each other and being with him.

Very simply celebrate the simple story of a God who is with us, by being with others this Christmas.

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Advent Conspiracy: Worship Fully

Advent Conspiracy: Worship Fully Sermon Audio Here

Luke 1:46-50

NOTE: This sermon is from AdventConspiracy.org. I’ve adapted it for my own preaching style, but the content is not mine. I’m grateful to the good people at Advent Conspiracy for helping the Church look at Advent in a different way.

To help us make sense of the Scripture, remember: Mary is young, poor, pregnant out of wedlock, hiding in an obscure hill town which is currently occupied by a foreign power. She is living in utter obscurity. She has no reason to be beside herself with joy towards God. She is of humble estate and yet here she is… flooded with joy, over flowing with gratitude, so much that she burst into song as her spirit soars. WHY?

Why “Worship Fully”?

Because God Sees Us ~ Luke 1:46-48

  • When you know the Divine sees you, your deepest inner person, your soul is touched, and you can’t help but Worship Fully. You can say things like Mary said; “from now on, from this moment on, people will call me blessed. Holy is his name.”
  • The reason for this worshipful response is that the souls deepest longing is to be seen and known. (1 Cor. 13:12)
  • => a little kid: “hey hey hey hey hey!” look at them, and they’re good

We Long To Be Seen ~ Genesis 16:13

  • She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
  • It’s why celebrity is so intoxicating. These people are seen so we think they must matter. I need to be seen to matter. On top of this need to be seen, our culture can breed isolation which just compounds our loneliness and can feed our despair at not being seen.

In the book Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, the author Dave Eggers captured this sentiment early in the days of reality TV, as his main character writes in to MTV to be on “The Real World.”

Dear Producers,
Something is radiating deep within me and it must be transmitted or
I will implode and the world will suffer a great loss, unawares. Epic
are the proportions of my soul, yet without a scope who cares who
I am? This is why I must but must be one of the inhabitants of MTV’s
“Real World.” Only there, burning brightly into a million dazzled
eyes, will my as yet uncontoured self assume the beauteous forms
that are not just its own, but an entire market niche’s, due.
I am a Kirk Cameron-Kurt Cobain figure, roguishly quirky, dandified
but down to earth, kooky but comprehensible; denizen of the growing penumbra between alternative and mainstream culture; angsty prophet of the already bygone apocalypse, yet upbeat, stylish and sexy!
Oh MTV, take me, make me, wake me from my formless slumbers
and place me in the dreamy Real World of target marketing.

  • God sees Mary not because of her looks, her intellect, her status, her importance. God looks and sees her in her humble estate, her obscurity.

When We Know God Sees Us, We Worship ~ Luke 1:49-50

  • After she sees and experiences this for her own life she says, trust in God, “from generation to generation”.
  • 51-55: she focuses on not what she has done, or even that she is seen. Her focus goes back to what GOD has done!


This is the story of Christmas, that God has seen us, and that He sees those in need. This is why we as a church have chosen to celebrate Christmas this year by worshipping fully the God who sees and loves us and in response, see and love those that are in need around us and around the world.

Advent: Preparing for the Child

Advent: Preparing for the Child Sermon Audio Here

Isa.7:10-16; Mat.1:18-25

Consider this: what does a young family do to prepare for the arrival of their first child?

How Can We Prepare for The Arrival of Christmas?

Be Aware of the Background ~ Isaiah 7:10-16

  • v10/13 God (through Isaiah) gives Ahaz a message: don’t worry about your current trouble, it will amount to nothing; Ahaz apparently doesn’t believe, and God says “I’ll prove it!” Ahaz says “no way” and God says, fine, I’ll show you myself! We can get so wrapped up in our own problems that we don’t even want to believe that God Himself can get us out of them – this is IDOLATRY – putting ourselves in God’s rightful place
  • v14/16 the FIRST sign is about TIME, not Person: gestation takes about 9 months; babies generally can eat simple solids by 6 months; children can generally tell wrong from right by age 5. Ahaz is being reassured that God will take care of the situation which so worries Ahaz before a child can tell wrong from right.
  • In short: Don’t worry, God is in control

Be Amazed at the Overlay ~ Matthew 1:18-25

  • v18 virgin (the Hebrew just meant young woman; the Greek shows specific miraculous intervention)
  • v19/20 angel (Isaiah was messenger; here, it’s an angel of God; another miraculous overlay)
  • v21/25 Emmanuel/Jesus (Yeshua=”Ye” is a short form of God’s name Yahweh; “shua” is “a saving cry”, what you yell out when you need help. “Yeshua” isn’t just the cry out TO God, but the ANSWER to that cry.)
  • God comes to you to rescue you. And THAT is Emmanuel – God with us… TO SAVE US!

As we enter this Christmas season, it helps to be aware of where IT came from: a fulfillment of a promise to an anxious man that God would care for the world. That promise is overlaid with supernatural power in the person of Christ. God HAS taken care of the world, DOES care for the world, and WILL bring it all to right. Let us enjoy the work He has done, is doing, and will continue to do as we wait for His Return.

Advent: Preparing for the Last Day

Advent: Preparing for the Last Day Sermon Audio Here

Romans 13:11-14

How do we prepare for the first day of school? How do we prepare for the LAST day of school? What’s the difference? The unknown experience!

How Will We Prepare For The Last Day?

Adjust to God’s Agenda ~ Isaiah 2:1-5

  • v2/3 God will teach us His ways
  • v4/5 God will judge & we will respond with peace ((if our world isn’t peaceful, we’ve got a ways to go))

Wake Up & Get Dressed ~ Romans 13:11-14

  • v11/12 wake up from the darkness
  • v13/14 get dressed for the Day

Matthew 24:36-44 leads us to ask: “When will it happen?” God only knows. SO – keep watch. Be ready. Remind each other as we wait that He will come.

Learning from Luke: A New Kind of Prophet

Learning from Luke: A New Kind of Prophet Sermon Audio Here


Luke 1:57-80

Do you ever get the sense that God is up to something, but you just don’t know what it is? You’re in good company! Old Testament Prophets were visited by the Spirit, and gave the Word of the Lord in response. John the Baptist was a prototype of the Christian life: indwelt by the Spirit. His main message: Get Ready, God’s About To Do SOMETHING…

If You’re Wondering What God is Doing, Ask:

What Prompts You To Praise?
Luke 1:57-66

  • v64 fulfillment of God’s promise leads to praise (cf. v20)
  • v66 Zechariah blesses God; people wonder about it

Where Do You See God’s Promise?
Luke 1:67-80

  • v67/68 “God has redeemed!” future echo of John’s message
  • v69/70 horn of salvation=authority to save?
  • v71/73 God keeps his covenant with us (even today)
  • v74/75 God enables us to serve Him in holiness
  • v76/77 the prophet tells of what God WILL do (ref. to Elijah)
  • v78/79 God’s mercy shines in our darkness to guide us

Notice verse 80: John grew, became strong in the Spirit, and waited for his call. That’s a good example for us, especially during Advent: wait, watch, and grow in God.

Learning from Luke: Soul Lifting

Learning from Luke: Soul Lifting Sermon Audio Here


Luke 1:46-56

The holidays can be a festive time for many, and an emotionally draining time for others. Amid the “ho ho ho” of surface merriment, it can be very challenging to minister to those suffering through the season.

How Do We Deal With Depression?

Remember God’s Choice; Respond With Praise
Luke 1:46-49

  • v46/47 Mary is ALL IN, “body and soul”
  • v48 “gazed with favor on low estate” God chose her, NOT because of how great she was
  • v49 but because of how great HE is

Remember God’s Actions; Respond With Amazement
Luke 1:50-56

  • v50 generational mercy (thinking about the baby?)
  • v51 applied mastery
  • v52 exalts the modest
  • v53 provides for the meager
  • v54/55 assists the minion

Closing thought from verse 56: notice how Mary stayed with Elizabeth. This was for MUTUAL SUPPORT; this is our opportunity and challenge as well – sustain support one for another during times like these. Let us be ALL IN with those who need us most.

Learning from Luke: The Son To Come

Learning from Luke: The Son To Come Sermon Audio Here


Luke 1:26-38

In this section of Luke 1, Jesus’ birth is foretold to Mary. God sends an angel to give Mary a startling piece of news. Have you ever received something so startling, it rocked your worldview? Perhaps Mary can serve as an example to us all:

What Was True For Mary Is True For Us As Well:

The Lord Is With Us
Luke 1:26-33 Gabriel’s Announcement

  • v26/27 once again, notice the details; these ground us in reality
  • v28/29 of COURSE Mary was troubled; when visited by angels,
    most biblical instances show the human is startled
  • v30 “do not be afraid” – most angels say this;
    a VERY good reminder for us when we’re freaking out
  • v31/33 notice how this good news gets better and better as it goes along;
    a son, greatness, called Most High’s Son, David’s heir, reigning, unending kingdom

God Blesses Through Mystery
Luke 1:34-38 Mary’s Response

  • v34 Look how practical Mary is; ummm…
  • v35 this is NOT a description of a physical thing; it is a mystery; Mary does NOT get the “How” of things, just the WHO
  • v36/37 two miracles to notice: you will have a son,
    Elizabeth will have a son;
    (you do not have to go through this alone)
  • v38 simple surrender, even beyond what she can understand

Even though we would very much like God to explain everything to us, that just doesn’t happen. But we can take a cue from Mary’s response to the angel, and also say this to God: I am the Lord’s Servant.


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